Halcyon Days on the Hill
Up at the farm, Dick and Laura Watson were now the tenants and villager Joe Brown still remembers going there to help with the threshing once a fortnight. The water mill drove the threshing machine, which separated the oats from the stalks. The spring that came down the hillside and worked the water wheel never dried up, but kept the sluice full of water. In the 1950’s a skull was found at the base of this wheel and the police had to investigate, but foul play was not suspected.
Doreen Watson was born at Tottergill. In 1934 aged just 13, she kept a daily diary which tells how she worked and played in those carefree days, when much was expected of country children, but when they also enjoyed a degree of freedom and responsibility denied the children of today.
The abundance of local produce is apparent from her accounts of helping with jam making from gooseberries, raspberries, crab apples, plums, strawberries and rhubarb, …’149 lbs in 1934’. She took orders for chestnuts - 9th October …’got 112 chestnuts for Margaret Thompson’..; collected the eggs daily and then helped her mother to sell them with their home-made butter in Brampton market.
With Jess, her much loved pony, she travelled about the farm, sometimes in a little cart, delivering picnic lunches to the harvest fields or leading hay back to the barn for stacking, sometimes riding over the fells to check on the sheep, or going down to the blacksmith’s in the village.
As she helped on the farm, rolling fleeces, raking hay and chopping sticks, she recorded the wild animals that she saw – 14th April ‘…saw 18 toads on the waterworks…’…25th April ‘…took a young white owl to school …’, 14th July ‘ … cut half of bottom meadow, found a nest of 6 rabbits.’, 9th September ‘… saw a fox…’,
Doreen’s mother Laura, had all the duties of a farmer’s wife and was also a postmistress down in the village and had helped with the reading and writing of letters for the navvies working on the reservoir in the fields below. She ran a bed and breakfast business and provided farm holidays for families, maintaining a tradition of hospitality, which continues today.
Despite the fact that daily life was hard and demanding and the financial rewards meagre at best, in later years the family was to remember these times as ‘halcyon days on the hill’.